Cross Talk Between Estradiol and mTOR Kinase in the Regulation of Ovarian Granulosa Proliferation


Treatment of ovarian granulosa cells and follicles with the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) kinase inhibitor results in biphasic effects where nanomolar rapamycin (RAP) results in reduced proliferation, mitotic anomalies, and attenuated follicle growth, while the picomolar RAP results in accelerated follicle growth. Here, we tested whether such effects are specific to RAP or could be mimicked by 2 alternative mTOR inhibitors, everolimus (EV) and temsirolimus (TEM), and whether these effects were dependent on the presence of estradiol (E2). Spontaneously immortalized rat granulosa cells (SIGCs) were cultured in dose curves of RAP, EV, TEM, or vehicle with or without E2. Proliferation and phosphorylation of mTOR targets p70S6 kinase and 4E-binding protein (BP) were determined. Cell cycle gene array analysis and confirmatory quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction were performed upon cells treated with picomolar RAP versus controls. Nanomolar RAP, EV, and TEM reduced SIGC proliferation and decreased phospho-p70 and 4E-BP. Picomolar concentrations accelerated proliferation without affecting mTOR substrate phosphorylation. Acceleration of growth by picomolar inhibitor required E2. Picomolar drug treatment altered the transcription of cell cycle regulators, increasing Integrin beta 1 and calcineurin expression, and decreasing inhibin alpha, Chek1, p16ARF, p27/Kip1, and Sestrin2 expression. At nanomolar concentrations, mTOR inhibitors attenuated granulosa proliferation. Accelerated growth and alterations in cell cycle gene transcription found with picomolar concentrations required E2 within the intrafollicular concentration range. The low concentrations of inhibitors required to increase granulosa proliferation suggest a novel use to support the growth of ovarian follicles.

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Correspondence to Joshua Johnson PhD.

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Yu, J., Thomson, T.C. & Johnson, J. Cross Talk Between Estradiol and mTOR Kinase in the Regulation of Ovarian Granulosa Proliferation. Reprod. Sci. 19, 143–151 (2012) doi:10.1177/1933719111424447

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  • ovary
  • follicle growth
  • folliculogenesis
  • mTOR
  • estradiol